2023 Bull Market Pick: 1985–93 Saab 900 Turbo
Welcome back to the Hagerty Bull Market List, our annual deep dive into the collector cars (and bikes) climbing the value ranks. This vehicle is one of 11 chosen for the 2023 installment of the List. To see the other 10, click here.
The new look of performance. That’s how Saab—for Svenska Aeroplan Aktiebolaget, or Swedish Airplane Company—described the 900 when the carmaker unveiled its newest model in 1978. It wasn’t quite a new look, however, styled as it was after the outgoing 99, although its longer wheelbase (by 2 inches) and increased overall length (by 8.4 inches) added real-world space to a car destined to charm more than one generation of enthusiasts with its own brand of quirk.
Both three- and five-door body styles were offered, and all of those doors closed with bank-vault solidity. Base power came from a fuel-injected 2.0-liter inline-four originally designed by Triumph. All 115 horses went toward the front wheels through a four-speed manual (five post-1983) or optional automatic. A turbocharger was available from the start, its 135 horsepower enough to propel the 2700-pound car to 111 mph while returning 19 mpg.
In addition to making turbocharged fun reliable in an era not known for fun or reliability, Saab loaded its sporty premium compact with thoughtful ergonomic touches. A split dash featured intuitively placed driver controls for everything, for instance. There were also novel safety features, like a telescopically collapsible steering column and the ignition key tumbler placed between the front seats to eliminate leg injuries in the event of a crash. The 900’s cabin air filter was an industry first, too.
For 1985, Saab fitted a DOHC 16-valve head to its Turbo models, now rated at 160 horsepower. 39,000 of the 900 were imported to the U.S. that year, the model’s highest volume during its 15-year run. A year later, the 16-valve head sat atop naturally aspirated engines, too, bumping them to 125 horses, and a Turbo convertible joined the lineup.
Ria Levine’s 1993 Turbo landed in the final year of production, after more than 900,000 of the 900 had sold worldwide. Levine grew up in a car family but wasn’t introduced to the 900 realm until 1984, when she rode along with her boss in his ’83 900 Turbo to client meetings. “I fell under the spell! The power, the comfort, and the ride were all intoxicating,” she says, “very much like a drug.” Eventually she bought his car, and then another, this time an ’84 Turbo. “It became my mom-mobile. I had two car seats in the back and the perfect diaper-changing space in the hatch—which can haul twice as much stuff as my SUV.” In 2000, shortly after selling that car and being Saabless for a few months, she found this one for sale close to home in California.
It is a joy to drive, perfectly preserved despite its 181,000 miles. In today’s era of high beltlines and gun-sight windows, the 900’s driving position and outward visibility are a revelation. The wraparound windshield puts the A-pillars completely out of sight, while the tight turning radius makes the car ridiculously easy to maneuver. The soft suspension means it leans like crazy, but it always feels planted and in control.
In fact, the 900 somehow still offers what Saab promised all those years ago. It may not be new, but the look of performance sure has aged gracefully.
1993 Saab 900 Turbo
Highs: Timeless looks; capable FWD layout goes where you point it; build quality and bullet-proof mechanicals; practical, cavernous interior.
Lows: Dwindling parts supply; dwindling talent to service them; an orphan from a dead company, meaning numbers will only shrink.
Price range: #1 – $29,800 #2 – $23,800 #3 – $19,000 #4 – $14,600
HAGERTY AUTO INTELLIGENCE SAYS:
Increasingly owned by next-generation enthusiasts, the Saab 900 Turbo appears to be spooling up for faster appreciation. Owners under age 40 have tripled since 2019 from a share of 7 percent to 22. Insurance quote growth for the 900 Turbo is three times faster than the overall growth rate at Hagerty. Exports back to Europe are up. While up 33 percent since 2019, values have lagged behind contemporary competitors such as the BMW 325i (+87 percent) and Volvo 240 (+42 percent). However, as demand emerges from new enthusiasts here and abroad, further appreciation looks likely.
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